- By Deborah Balzer
Infectious Diseases A-Z: Why being vaccinated against the flu is a gift to your family
Many families will be opening presents Christmas morning. There is one gift that cannot be packaged or wrapped, though it could certainly save a life and perhaps the life of an elderly relative or friend. It's being vaccinated against the flu.
"You are getting the flu vaccine for two reasons," says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "The first is to protect yourself. The second is so that you don’t get influenza and spread it to people who might have a very serious case of it, or perhaps are so ill that even if we gave the ill person the vaccine, they won't respond very well. So you're protecting yourself and you're protecting those around you."
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If you haven't yet had your flu vaccine, Dr. Poland says it is not too late. "Our recommendation, and the national recommendation, is everybody 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year. That’s everybody, every year. And the reason for it is the profound amount of economic loss, suffering, inappropriate antibiotic usage, hospitalizations, complications, and, unfortunately, even death."
Good hand hygiene is important, too, says Dr. Poland.
"So cough into the crook of your elbow, and wash your hands and keep them off your face. That goes a long way, in companionship with the flu vaccine, to protecting yourself.”